In the same way that it’s understood that soap operas will have absurd story lines, people expect music videos to be over-the-top dramatic. Bands are generally in the business of communicating really big feelings, and super evocative music videos certainly help to accomplish that goal. And while a person can only handle so much slo-mo and so many sunset mountainsides, it’s those unchecked melodramas that really stick in our minds, spawning everything from torrid one-night stands to Scott Stapp’s career.
Last week Cage’s “I Never Knew You” reminded us just how much a well-executed video can quicken the pulse. As usual, that got us to thinking… Which other videos reach down your throat, grab you by the heart and hand pump it until you think you’re gonna pass out? What are the most compelling videos of all-time? In Buzzworthy’s slightly comprehensive list below, you’ll find the gut-wrenchingest, unflinchingest (and sometimes cheesiest) videos in recent history, so get close to the Kleenex. This list is not recommended for the infirm or the elderly.
+ Creed, “With Arms Wide Open” — It’s hard to believe that this video is actually for real. Watching it again now, I keep expecting a “Wipe that s$#* up” overdub to kick in and relieve the insane self-indulgence. Notoriously wack frontman Scott Stapp literally dodges asteroids at sunset and stands on a mountain with his arms spread, as the cameras circle, as if carried by slow motion eagles.
+ Chicago, “You’re The Inspiration” — Can I get away with describing this video as “difficult to watch?” Handily out-sapping those inscrutable Japanese karaoke videos, it’s easier to eat a whole brick of cream cheese than it is to watch this video all the way through. That being said, definitely watch it.
+ Soul Asylum, “Runaway Train” — The ’90s invented that thing where tough-looking dudes enjoy music by standing around looking really sad and tuned out. It’s no Toni Braxton “Un-Break My Heart,” but this Soul Asylum video does help the grungers get into character with a sad slideshow of missing children.
+ R.E.M., “Everybody Hurts” — Hold on! Stop! Everybody hit your breaks! Get up! Get out of your cars! Come on! Put on your little hats! Come on, do it! Dooo it! Come onnn! Little hats! Put your hands over your hearts! Sad break! Saaad break! Awww! (See also: Radiohead’s amazing “Just”).
+ Depeche Mode, “Wrong” — Chicago will clog your arteries, but Depeche Mode will stop your heart. This terrifying video combines the edgy uncertainty of Radiohead’s “Karma Police” with the supernatural creepiness of UNKLE’s “Rabbit In Your Headlights,” and comes out with one of the most disturbing videos I’ve ever seen.
+ The Fray, “Never Say Never” — An everyday urban cityscape becomes a furious war-zone in The Fray’s metaphorical new video. The violence of the uprising represents — wait for it, wait for it — the pain of a break-up! DRAMA!
+ Pearl Jam, “Jeremy” — If you’ve been taking your MTV regularly like you’re supposed to, you know that Pearl Jam recently released a never-before-seen director’s cut of “Jeremy,” with a much more explicit finish. See what all of Eddie Vedder’s diabolical glares were really leading up to in one of grunge’s darkest anthems.
+ Kanye West, “Flashing Lights” — Don’t be fooled by the muscle car, the thong-clad bikini girl or the Miami sunset. Don’t be fooled by the cheery title, either. In this dead-serious drama, former Playboy playmate, Rita G, isn’t stroking Kanye’s ego… She’s dispatching it to hell.
The Sexiest / Most Cinematic
+ Justin Timberlake, “What Goes Around Comes Around” — Move over, Coldplay. JT and Scarlett Johansson knock the dust off music video-making with this breathlessly sensual mini-movie, which includes fire-twirlers, pool sex, car chases and hey… Wait a minute… Is that the set of Titanic??
+ Guns N’ Roses, “November Rain” — You must’ve known it would come to this, right? Seventeen years after Use Your Illusion, it’s still pretty much impossible to pass a country church without seeing mirages of top-hatted dust-storm guitar solos, or to attend a wedding without imagining guests crashing through the cake. I know it pops up at the top of a lot of lists, but there’s a good reason for that. Packing a wedding, a thunderstorm, a funeral and a nightmare into over nine minutes of soaring guitar solos, it’s easily the most dramatic video ever!
+ HEY! What did we miss? Post your favorites in the comments.